Genre: Horror, Thriller
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 31m
Director(s): Christopher Smith
Writer(s): Christopher Smith, Laurie Cook
Cast: Jena Malone, Danny Huston, Janet Suzman
Where To Watch: streaming on Shudder May 19, 2023
RAVING REVIEW: Allow me to pull back the curtain on CONSECRATION, a film that allows you along on a journey through this theological maze. Often, the film's narrative will leave you scratching your head at the examination of an intense dissection of the Catholic Church. There is something here, but it won’t be a journey that everyone will enjoy.
Enter Grace, played to perfection by the incomparable Jena Malone. This London-based ophthalmologist lives a life detached from religion, focused on the concrete and scientific worlds. However, the mystery around her brother, who was a priest, pulls her into this unfamiliar world, upending her understanding of life. The plot evolves as she arrives at the cryptic labyrinth of a Scottish Highlands convent, and the truth she uncovers begins to blur the lines between her past and the church's impenetrable facade.
Sharing this quest with her is Father Romero, depicted by Danny Huston. Their journey exposes bone-chilling secrets that shake the Church's foundations, turning what seemed like a classic detective story into a spectral thriller. The narrative reaches its peak when it pushes the boundaries of horror/thriller, allowing viewers to rethink their stance on morality, spirituality, and the demons that lurk within us all.
Sadly, the thrill of the chase is lost amidst a plot that tries to fly too close to the sun. Christopher Smith and Laurie Cook, the minds behind the screenplay, appear to bite off more than they can chew, juggling an overabundance of themes. This leads to a plot that loses focus and forces the audience to make too many educated guesses.
CONSECRATION finds its heart in Grace's introspective journey and her wrestling match with religious convictions. The rugged Scottish Highlands serves as a reflective backdrop, echoing society's stringent norms and doctrines. The cast keeps any plot-driven pitfalls from making the film unwatchable; even as the story suffers, they rise above and deliver surprisingly solid performances. Malone's portrayal of the dubious Grace is riveting; Huston creates a counter, adding tension as Father Romero and Janet Suzman as Mother Superior rounds out the acclaimed trio. The film's attempt to criticize the Church feels more like a brush on the surface than a deep dive, leaving the viewers wanting a more in-depth analysis. I saw where they wanted to go but was left a few stops away.
CONSECRATION impresses with its muted palate, creating an atmosphere of solemnity. The horror elements were well done; they kept the film grounded enough to prevent it from seeming silly. Director Christopher Smith's creativity manages to shine through, yet his ambitions need to be within reach. The plot attempts to regain lost momentum with a twist ending; this last-minute injection of excitement falls short of recapturing the initial allure of CONSECRATION, leaving the viewer yearning for a more fulfilling resolution.
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[photo courtesy of IFC MIDNIGHT/SHUDDER]